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An example of work by Susan Miller-Havens
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following, submitted April 2004 and updated January 2006, is from the artist whose website is|
painting is an emotional response to color, light, and human
experience. From a very early age I found my reaction to the world
around me divided between a fascination with the inner workings of the
mind and the aesthetic beauty of nature. Pursuits of both these
interests are reflected in my work as I moved back and forth between
the two over time.
I was raised in a community with easy
access to New York City and with family and friends committed to museum
work, so I took for granted the visual feasts routinely afforded me. I
was discouraged from making a career in painting and took a more
practical route in nursing and then psychology, maintaining a practice
of psychotherapy for 20 years and receiving a doctorate from Harvard
University in Human Development.
Nonetheless, I was never
content without painting. In mid-career I was able to address this
problem seriously by attending Wellesley College while working in a
clinic part time. Wellesley's rigorous art history requirement along
with the advent of the studio major served to solidify my previous
exposure to the actual making of art. This enrichment combined with
studio instruction from two distinctly different artists, landscape
artist James Wilson Rayen and watercolorist Richard Yarde, set the
stage for where I find myself today.
My painting reflects both
classical and abstract orientations. I try to combine the use of line
to define space with an understanding of color field painting and
previous experience as an abstract landscape painter. My representation
of the figure has been informed by a knowledge of anatomy and
psychology gained through careers in surgical and psychological fields.
I like to think that I paint from the inside out. The transition from
color field painting to figure was made when a colleague reminded me
that baseball players wear white uniforms. This enabled me to bring the
figure back to my painting while continuing to study the interactions
of whites. At the same time the contemporary combats played out between
men in athletic competition have lent themselves to my goal of using
art to remark publicly on the some of the complexities of life and our
For ten years I was interested in the images found in
baseball, basketball, and football. I believe that these figures echo
the Greek interest in the body and athletic games. The catchers'
protective equipment in baseball, the helmets in football, and the
physical height of the players in basketball recall the warriors,
gladiators, and vikings of years gone by thus visually uniting the past
with the present. More immediately I view sport as a metaphor for
I try to place the images in time that is
ambiguous, thus asking the viewer to imagine what has or will happen. I
mean to paint facial expressions that will evoke a response in the
viewer. This attempt to use images as a way to set up tension on the
picture plane I owe to Tissot, Manet, Renoir, Pollock, and the art of
I want the viewer to see what I have seen, to think
about the person and their situation rather than let pure
representational poses close down possibilities. To this end, the
majority of my portraits are not frontal. My backgrounds are devoid of
objects so as to force the viewer to pay attention to what is going on
in front of them.
The new body of work, "Women's Best
Friends", begins with the relationships between women and their often
beloved dogs. Later paintings in the series will concern themselves
with the relationships amongst women and some of their other best
friends, both men and women. Rendered in the same palette as my earlier
paintings, once again the viewer is invited to reflect on the person
and his or her situation through the immediacy of the images.
I remain challenged by the color white. In terms of representing light
I use both traditional and modern techniques, either underpainting and
/ or pigment applied directly on the canvas with a palette knife. I was
trained in both direct and indirect painting. I am a colorist at heart,
using color to create both psychological and geometrical depth.
Delacroix, Goya, and Matisse are amongst my influences.
then from both the representational and abstract schools of painting, I
am attempting to set up artistic problems to solve that combine images
and painting techniques from the past with the present, that define
space through unexpected uses of color and line, that generate for the
viewer a sense of subtle psychological ambiguity and timelessness, that
comment on human interaction.
2000 Prize winner, The Adam East Museum and Art Center, Washington
1999 One of Ten Winners, Art Calendar Magazine National Contest
2002- Member Advisory Council Department of Arts in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge Massachusetts
2000 Inducted into National Association of Women Artists, New York City
The National Portrait Gallery, The Smithsonian Institution - Washington D.C. The Permanent Collection
2003 The City of Cambridge - Cambridge, Massachusetts
2001 The Harvard Graduate School of Education
2000 Boston, Massachusetts - The Phelps Collection
1998 Miami, Florida - Private collection
1994 New York, New York - The Special Needs Clinic Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following was published in the South End News (Boston, Massachusetts):|
You Don't Have to Love Dogs to Love Miller-Havens
South End News - March 11 p. 25
by D O Lynne Plummer, contributing editor
and body language isolate brief moments in time. The environments are
hushed with primarily solid backgrounds and diminutive distraction, the
quietude giving primacy to psychology. "Women's Best Friends #10" is
unique from the other 13 paintings in the exhibit, showing a woman
(back to) driving with her dog in the passenger's seat, extending only
so far as to see their shoulders and heads.
intimate, the paintings put a tight perspective on their subject
matter, showing just enough information to reveal the pact between
Rendered in the same palette as her earlier paintings
of local figures and sports stars, these works draw the viewer to
reflect only on the immedicacy of the images. The artist's technique is
one that keeps the images moving and twisting in front of the viewer.
One can feel the way a young woman's shirt pulls up off her hips as she
holds her Pug closely. Light is cast strongly on the backs of both
beasts and women, creating playful chiaroscuro on the canvas, wood, or
clayboard surfaces. Surrounded in Dutch black maple frames, the
paintings convey a poignancy, taking the relationships seriously. The
pets are not peripheral inclusions, nor are these dog portraits.
Miller-Havens gets into the soul of her subjects
of Cambridge City Hall has seen the work of local artist Miller-Havens.
Unveiled on December 11, 2003, her commissioned portrait of former
Mayor Alice Wolf hangs on the second floor. Harvard staff and students
may be familiar with her commissioned portrait of the dean of Harvard
Graduate School of Education, Jerome Murphy, which hangs along side
portraits of the previous deans in Longfellow Hall. Sports fans may be
most interested in her stunning portraits of sports legends such as
baseball great Carlton Fisk (entitled "Ode To Manet"), now part of the
permanent collection in the National Portrait Gallery at the
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
however, should pop into the exhibition for Miller-Havens new body of
work, "Women's Best Friends" on view until Mar 27. Speaking to the
relationship between women and their beloved canines, the show is not
exclusive to those who can relate. Regardless of the subject matter,
works that express authentic feeling with artistic mastery are
In many of her portraits, both dog and
master sit with their backs to us in an attempt to avoid purely
representational poses. The relationship between the women and their
pets is implied through subtleties and nuance.
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